Copyright (c) 2007, 2008, 2009 Toomas Karmo. Revision history (UTC/major.minor.patch): 20091122T045711Z/version_6.1.1 (added report on 2009 November 18 and 2009 November 19 discussions with official "ABC" in the Ministry of Culture, regarding failure of transmission in 2009 May of e-mail to Honourable Aileen Carroll, the Ontario Minister of Culture, from me), 20090630T021731Z/version_6.1.0 (added 2009 May 13 e-mail to Honourable Aileen Carroll, the Ontario Minister of Culture, from me), 20090506T203258Z/version_6.0.0 (added 2009 September 22 letter to Ontario Minister of Culture from Ontario Heritage Trust, obtained under Freedom of Information Act by one of my friends in the winter of 2008-2009), 20071027T063349Z/version_5.0.0 (added responses received from University in papermail of 2007 October 23 to my questions regarding low-and-green bid viability and the Dunlap Institute planning horizon; created new section, as Appendix with selected documentation), 20071002T080443Z/version_4.1.0 (made my posing of formal question less abrasive; made miscellaneous minor improvements), 20070930T073309Z/version_4.0.0 (posed formal question to President's Office, concerning the possibility that the secret contract with the Dunlap heirs prevents the University from accepting a low-and-green bid; made miscellaneous minor improvements), 20070923T022113Z/version_3.0.0 (mentioned Rucinski-Pribulla hypothesis and related issues; added more material on impending twenty-first century social context, including further reading suggestions and a request that the University of Toronto formally define its planning horizon and its social-context assumptions; discussed the question of a wildlands trail; mentioned Royal Astronomical Society of Canada possibilities; made miscellaneous minor improvements), 20070918T102101Z/version_2.2.0 (corrected error regarding Anarchist U), 20070916T054615Z/version_2.1.0 (made miscellaneous minor improvements; ran spellchecker), 20070915T101444Z/version_2.0.0 (did major rework of final section, articulating a detailed positive vision of the sense in which DDO can be saved as a working observatory; made minor changes elsewhere; did not have time to run spellchecker), 20070914T103920Z/version_1.0.0 (did quick-but-workable base version, with spelling as yet unchecked, for courtesy communication to Ms. Ruta Pocius in the Office of Public Affairs, for courtesy communication to the DDO Associate Director, for moral vetting by Dean in Faculty of Arts and Science, for assurance-of-free-speech query to Vice President for Human Resources, for initial consultation with my lawyer-of-first-resort, for reading by selected political companions-in-arms, and the like; not yet made available on the public Web, and not yet brought to the notice of the media and the officers of the Town of Richmond Hill). Permission is granted to copy, distribute, and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2, or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation. In the terminology of the License, this document has no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. The definitive machine-readable copy of this document is in the 'Literary' section of A copy of the License is included in a hyperlinked section, entitled GNU Free Documentation License, of the machine-readable copy.

The Future
of the David Dunlap Observatory:
Corrections in Language
the University of Toronto
Press Release
of 2007 September 10

For the reader in a hurry, here's an overview with hyperlinks to the relevant sections, further down the single long Web page (you're reading its initial paragraph now) that displays this ten-or-fifteen-thousand-word essay.

The (quite short) first section, 'About This Essay' gives the basic legal and literary context. Most readers, even those who can give this Web page only a few minutes of their time, will want to glance at this section. The (quite short) second section, 'What the Press Release Should Have Said', is the core of the essay. All readers will want to read this section closely. Readers severely pressed for time will probably want to leave this Web page now. Readers who need to dig deeply, on the other hand, will want to proceed to the remaining five sections.

The third section, 'Introducing Myself', shows that I am qualified to write in detail about the David Dunlap Observatory. The fourth section, 'Corrections (a): Rectification of Material Omission', analyzes issues of financial disclosure, supplying context and background for certain language offered earlier, in the "core" section of this essay ('What the Press Release Should Have Said'). The fifth section, 'Corrections (b): "Proposals for Development"', analyzes ecological (conservationist, "green") issues, supplying context and background for certain language offered in the "core" section. The sixth section, 'Corrections (c): "Unsuitable for … Research Purposes"', analyzes (extensively) questions of research capability and (summarily) questions of academic suitability, supplying context and background for certain language offered in the "core" section.

If the Observatory cannot be saved, and if the bulk of the surrounding land cannot be saved, then at any rate the standing of the University of Toronto as a forum for informed, honest, fearless, and courteous debate can be saved. That much is clear from my friendly communications with the office of the Dean in the Faculty of Arts and Science. But perhaps something can, after all be saved? The seventh section, 'What We Can Save', explores the possibilities, developing first a worst-case imaginative scenario and then a realistic-good-case imaginative scenario.

The eighth (final) section, 'Appendix: Selected Documentation', reproduces the exact text of some DDO-relevant material potentially useful to people, such as lawyers, embarking on detailed work.

Whether you are leisured reader or a reader-in-a-hurry, do please note that this essay is liable to revisions as the DDO situation evolves. Do therefore please be careful to press your browser's "Refresh" button whenever you revisit this page. That action will cause your browser to ignore the contents, possibly stale, of its local cache and instead retrieve the latest version of this page from the Web server.

1. About This Essay

This long essay serves the public interest by remedying defects in a University of Toronto press release dated 2007 September 10. The press release concerns the envisaged closing of a University of Toronto facility, the David Dunlap Observatory. Three defects in the press release stand out: (a) a material omission, involving finance, calls into question the propriety of the press-release word 'gift'; (b) it is left to the reader, who may or may not understand bizspeak, to determine that 'proposals' really means 'proposals for real-estate development'; and (c) the phrase 'unsuitable for academic and research purposes' makes a demonstrably false statement of fact. (I indeed speculate that not the tribunal of public opinion alone but even a court of civil process would consider the falsehood demonstrable.)

2. What the Press Release Should Have Said

The following, more or less, is what was needed:

As the relevance of the David Dunlap Observatory to the overall astronomy strategy of the U of T diminishes, the legacy of the donation made by Jessie Donalda Dunlap to U of T in the late 1920s in memory of her husband, David, will live on. The university is pleased to announce that it has reached an agreement with the Dunlap heirs to begin the process of establishing the Dunlap Institute. The Institute will supplement and strengthen existing U of T astronomy arrangements. The Institute, to be located on U of T's St. George campus, will be realized through funds endowed from the sale of the David Dunlap Observatory and the surrounding 76.9-hectare property in Richmond Hill. As is normal in such transactions at U of T, a donor-confidentiality arrangement protects the Dunlap heirs from public scrutiny of any financial sacrifice or financial benefit that the transaction may entail for them. The original placement by Jessie Donalda Dunlap was made as a covenant-conditioned gift having a 2007 value, to one significant figure, of 8 million Canadian dollars. [BEFORE CORRECTIONS: As the academic and research relevance of the David Dunlap Observatory in Richmond Hill draws to a close, the legacy of the gift donated by Jessie Dunlap to U of T in the 1930s in memory of her husband, David, will continue to live on. The university is pleased to announce that it has reached an agreement with the Dunlap heirs to begin the process to establish the Dunlap Institute to support astronomy in the 21st century. The institute, to be located at U of T's St. George campus, will be realized through funds endowed from the sale of the Dunlap Observatory and the surrounding property in Richmond Hill.]

"We have worked closely with the grandchildren of Jessie and David Dunlap to determine an appropriate means by which to honour their vision and tremendous gift to the University more than 70 years ago," says Professor Pekka Sinervo, dean of arts and science. "The Dunlap Institute will be as relevant in this century and of the same standard of excellence that the David Dunlap Observatory was at its peak in the past century." Sinervo points out that light pollution caused by immense urban growth in the GTA has diminished the research suitability of the Observatory, precluding most extragalactic optical astronomy; that current optical telescopes of the first and second rank, all outside Canada, but all adequately accessible to U of T researchers under currently feasible air-travel arrangements, are in the eight-or-ten-metre and four-metre aperture classes, in contrast with the 1.88 metres of the largest David Dunlap Observatory telescope; and that the U of T cannot afford the upkeep of the Observatory if it is to maintain its current overall astronomy research strategy, committed as the optical-observational portion of that strategy is to vigorous extragalactic efforts and to the vigorous use of first- or second-ranking optical telescopes. Currently, the university spends $800,000 annually towards the upkeep of the facility. [BEFORE CORRECTIONS: "We have worked closely with the grandchildren of Jessie and David Dunlap to determine an appropriate means by which to honour their vision and tremendous gift to the University more than 70 years ago," says Professor Pekka Sinervo, dean of arts and science. "The Dunlap Institute will be as relevant in this century and of the same standard of excellence that the Dunlap Observatory was at its peak in the past century." Sinervo points out that light pollution caused by immense urban growth in the GTA has rendered the observatory unsuitable for academic and research purposes for quite some time. Currently, the university spends $800,000 annually towards the upkeep of the facility.]

In order to proceed with the sale of the property, the university will be recommending to its Governing Council that the lands be declared surplus to academic need. That process will get underway at next week's planning and budget committee meeting. "As Canada's largest research university our first priority is to deliver on our academic purpose and we must leverage our investments in a manner that facilitates education, research and discovery without an added burden to our students or taxpayers," says Sinervo. A final vote on the matter is expected to take place at Governing Council's Oct. 30 meeting and if approved a request for real-estate development proposals will follow shortly thereafter. [BEFORE CORRECTIONS: In order to proceed with the sale of the property, the university will be recommending to its Governing Council that the lands be declared surplus to academic need. That process will get underway at next week's planning and budget committee meeting. "As Canada's largest research university our first priority is to deliver on our academic purpose and we must leverage our investments in a manner that facilitates education, research and discovery without an added burden to our students or taxpayers," says Sinervo. A final vote on the matter is expected to take place at Governing Council's Oct. 30 meeting and if approved a request for proposals will follow shortly thereafter.]

The Dunlap Institute will focus on research, teaching and advanced training and public outreach. Its multifaceted objectives include the creation of an international centre of research excellence in astronomy and astrophysics; participation in the development of scientific instrumentation for world class observatories; and leadership and promotion of interactions to create major national and international research collaborations.

Current operations of the observatory, including public tours, will continue until further notice.

3. Introducing Myself

I write as a private individual. I do not represent any person other than myself, and I do not represent any organization. In particular, I do not represent the DDO. The idea of writing this essay originated with me, and I produced it in wording close to what you are reading now (in wording duly archived in my workstation, and available on request) before showing it to anyone.

I now proceed to demonstrate that I am adequately qualified to make corrections to the press release.

Although my career upon taking the Oxford D.Phil. in 1979 was devoted to analytical philosophy, I made a career change in 1991. In 1996, I graduated from the University of Toronto Computer Science and Physics Specialist B.Sc. programme with what would in Britain be called the 'Upper Second' class of honours but was in the technical language of the University of Toronto administration termed 'Distinction'. ('Distinction' was in University of Toronto language distinguished from 'High Distinction', a class of honours corresponding to the British 'First'.)

I proceeded to the full required sequence of six one-semester "AST" courses in the University of Toronto astrophysics-specialist B.Sc. programme, obtaining, from my beginning of that line of studies in 1996 September until my 1999 May ending, the (British "First-Class Honours") course grades of A+, A+, A+, A+, A, and A-. After 1999 May, I continued, as my longstanding unipolar, essentially sub-clinical, depression permitted, with modest private studies in astronomy.

My use of DDO equipment began in a small way in the autumn of 1997, with an AST3xx observing-techniques course largely focused on the small telescopes on the downtown campus Burton Tower, but involving also one class-group evening at DDO and one private full observing night at DDO.

I deepened my acquaintance with the equipment in the autumn of 1998, observing the helium-weak, spectrum/colour-discrepant star HD21699 at central wavelengths of 4200, 4700, 6650, and 7770 Ångströms, and observing also a project-supporting grid of Morgan-Keenan temperature-and-luminosity spectral-standard stars at each of these four wavelengths. My supervisor in the work was Prof. (now Professor Emeritus) Robert F. Garrison.

Here I must digress, firstly supplying context and background for Prof. Garrison and secondly opening the question of corroborating and supporting testimony, from outside the University of Toronto, for some of the scientific positions I take in this essay.

Prof. Garrison was himself a Yerkes student of, and later a close collaborator with, the late Prof. William Wilson Morgan. He has served as a senior member, I believe as President or Vice-President, in the International Astronomical Union Commission 45 (Stellar Classification). A central task of that Commission is the upkeep of the Morgan-Keenan classification system.

Some may consider Morgan-Keenan to be a scientific backwater. I would myself, however, suggest a quite contrary assessment, putting Morgan-Keenan rather closer to theatre stage front-centre than to wings-and-backstage in current stellar astronomy. I make this suggestion because Morgan-Keenan has received radical extensions in recent years. We may here leave aside one of Prof. Garrison's own areas of special knowledge, the ever-so-necessary reviews of "anchor-point stars", the fine-tuning of Wittgensteinian specimen-based ostensive-definitions-of-the-classification-bins that alone can guarantee a stable foundation for astrophysical applications (including, dramatically enough, the extragalactic applications of Morgan-Keenan). Here we note, rather, just the big picture: the traditional 1940s OBAFGKM, RN, S, and the somewhat more modern OBAFGKM, C, S, have now, in this post-1990 era of brown-dwarf discoveries, become OBAFGKM, C, S, LT, and there is some prospect of a further evolution of the overall classification architecture into OBAFGKM, C, S, LTY.

Two of Prof. Garrison's former Ph.D. students, Prof. Richard Gray of Appalachian State University (he is currently Vice President of IAU Commission 45) and Fr Chris Corbally of the Vatican Observatory Research Group, have themselves for the past year or two been writing what may become the definitive work, so far as the early twenty-first century goes, on the Morgan-Keenan system. This book should appear at a high-profile American academic press in the next couple of years. (The identity of that press is known to me personally, although I choose not to reveal it in this essay.)

Prof. Gray and Fr Gray know me personally, and may well prove willing, even (for all I know) happy, even (for all I know) anxious to confirm and emphasize and elaborate the various DDO-specific spectroscopy points I shall be making in the sixth section of this essay. To preserve strict authorial and political independence, I take the precaution of writing the essay without consulting them, presenting the finished upload-to-Web-server to them in the spirit of a fait accompli. I speculate that the fait accompli will for them prove more welcome than unwelcome.

This prudent digression into the question of supporting and corroborating testimony from suitably senior authorities outside DDO concluded, I continue describing my own modest-but-adequate background. I further deepened my acquaintance with the DDO equipment from 2001 April to 2004 or 2005, observing for many tens of nights for a Garrison-Gray-Corbally collaboration in the NASA near-stars ("NStars") survey. (This is a spectroscopic survey at 4200 and 4700 Ångströms of the entire solar neighbourhood, for all stars hotter than the Morgan-Keenan M0 types, out to a distance of about 150 light years, in support of planning for the envisaged NASA Space Interferometry Mission and the envisaged NASA-with-Europe Terrestrial Planet Finder.)

My really intimate knowledge of the equipment, however, dates from 2006 November, in a development triggered by the mildly early, and in essence unanticipated, retirement of the long-serving full-time senior telescope operator, the much-respected Jim Thomson. DDO, being at that point in mildly pressing need of a telescope operator, appointed me as a casual staff member, paid on an hourly rate, without benefits, under a letter of contract saying that my appointment could be terminated for any reason at any time. I was not excessively keen to serve as a telescope operator, being at this point already in harness as a casual-rate assistant to the hot-stars specialist Prof. C.T. ("Tom") Bolton. Nevertheless, I considered it my duty to take up the DDO offer, and to subject myself to the concomitant expense and inconvenience of a residence move from Beverley Street down town to the vicinity of the DDO in Richmond Hill, since I would thereby be alleviating a somewhat sudden DDO staff-shortage problem that appeared to have no simple solution short of my joining. Under the skillful tutelage of DDO's sole remaining full-time telescope operator, Heide DeBond, I mastered the technical details of operations.

From 2006 November onward, I also learned more about the astrophysical, as distinguished from the operational, side of DDO, consulting as best I could on my duty nights with the visiting, scientifically senior, observers Michal Siwak (from Poland), Theo Pribulla (from Slovakia), Waldek Ogloza (from Poland), Juan Gutierrez-Soto (from Spain and France), and Kalju Annuk (from Estonia).

I am, to repeat, within my scientific limitations correctly positioned firstly to understand the capabilities and limitations of the DDO equipment and secondly to correct (writing strictly as an informed private individual) errors in a press release in which that equipment is characterized.

I do not write this essay, mildly embarrassing though it may conceivably prove to the University, or perhaps even to the Dunlap family, in an effort to "save my job". Through living frugally, avoiding such things as motorcar ownership and home ownership and extensive recreational travel (from 1991 until 2006, I occupied a single room of no great size, and in addition rented a storage locker), I am nearly, or even literally, financially independent. Such income as I expend comes, for the most part, from lowbush blueberry interests in Nova Scotia and from a conspicuously conservative set of equity and fixed-interest investments. The fact that I have a DDO "job" in telescope operations at all is, I repeat, in essence a consequence of my (gladly) deciding to bail the DDO out at a time of administrative difficulty; and I now add that that bailing-out is to some degree a (glad) sacrifice, since it takes time away both from my ongoing private astronomy studies and from my ongoing research support for Prof. Tom Bolton.

The theme of the DDO-embedding land, in all its 76.9-hectare magnificence, must loom large in any discussion of the 2007 September 10 press release, and that theme I handle at appropriate length in the fifth section of this essay. I must at this preliminary stage, in establishing my own qualifications, remark that I have, if not an informed understanding of, at least a significant history of muscular and financial engagement with, the land. This engagement consists in my (unpaid) DDO landscape gardening.

I in fact do best to describe the gardening in considerable detail at this point, since what I have to say on gardening will inevitably be read by officeholders from the Town of Richmond Hill, who will themselves inevitably be deliberating about such issues as park development.

I began my gardening in October of 1999, planting many tens of daffodil bulbs. I was probably horticulturally inactive in 2000 and 2001. My private formal timelogs show that I performed significant unpaid work in subsequent years: 22.9 hours in 2002, 63.1 hours in 2003, 70.5 hours in 2004, 53.7 hours in 2005, and 31.0 hours in 2006. As I write the first draft of this essay, I find the 2007 timelog showing 66.3 hours of unpaid gardening over the period from 2007 January 1 through 2007 September 12. On taking measurements on 2007 September 12, I found the DDO main beds, respectively north and south of the main-building entrance, to be 1 metre wide and to be, to one significant figure, 7 metres and 5 metres long, respectively. These beds are entirely the result of my own muscular exertion. They are double-dug, to a depth of possibly 0.3 metres, with a mixture of manure and peat moss. At the entrance to the main-telescope dome are two small double-dug accent beds, again the result of my own muscular exertion. Finally, there are seven successful plantings of shrub roses, and one semi-successful planting, in each case with accompanying Lavandula angustifolia (English lavender), and four successful plantings of forsythia. These are yet again in essence the result of my own muscular exertion, but in the case of the roses some component in the "sweat equity" (20 percent? 10 percent?) is due to the exceptionally kind assistance of DDO staffers Heide DeBond and Yakov Voronkov.

Of the capital, conceivably one or two thousand dollars, by now invested in the garden, as plants, consumables, and small tools, easily something like 60 percent has come from my own pocket, with the balance coming from my mother (by way of a donation of eight shrub roses) and DDO itself (by way of reimbursements, against receipts, following many transactions, most of them small, between me and the retail garden centres).

4. Corrections (a): Rectification of Material Omission

The opening paragraph of the press release speaks of a 'gift', and this same word occurs again in the second paragraph. The first paragraph, however, which introduces the theme of a gift from the Dunlap family to the University of Toronto, makes a material omission. The omission is of a character sufficiently serious to call into question the correctness (for all I know, even the legal, let alone the moral, correctness) of the word 'gift' - at any rate if the writer's intention is to represent Jessie Donalda Dunlap as having made an enduring gift, a thing that both (i) had the character of a gift when originally made and (this is crucial) (ii) is destined to retain the character of a gift after the envisaged transactions between the Dunlap family and the University are complete.

(a) It may be, for all the public, including me, knows in the secret-contract setting of "donor confidentiality", that the Dunlap heirs are a financially burdened or a financially disinterested party in the agreement they have reached with the University. On this scenario, they do not benefit financially from the envisaged sale of the lands around DDO, and they offer their acquiescence in the envisaged DDO shutdown in a spirit of disinterested public service. Either they make some outright sacrifice - some payment out of their own generous pockets - to the University, or else - being not to so marked an extent altruistic - they agree to walk away without taking anything.

It is a possible scenario. But why, then, was the University in discussions with the Dunlaps for a period of more than twenty years before the issuing of the press release? How can discussions last for over two decades where nothing financially contentious is at stake? If money is not what caused the discussions to drag out so long, then what did? Surely such protracted discussions were negotiations with a financial component, in which some money, including some share from the proceeds of a land sale, was envisaged as flowing toward the Dunlaps?

(b) It may be, for all the public, including me, knows in the secret-contract setting of "donor confidentiality", that the Dunlap heirs will be compensated in some small way by the University for their acquiescence in the Observatory closure. Small compensation would in this context be a matter of a payment in the low seven figures, say of 1 million Canadian dollars (CAD) or 2 million CAD.

This, too, is a possible scenario. But it is not a plausible one. For here as with the earlier scenario, everyone asks: Why, with such easy things at stake, has it taken more than two decades' worth of negotiations to reach a contract?

(c) It may be, for all the public, including me, knows in the secret-contract setting of "donor confidentiality", that (and this is potentially disturbing) the Dunlap family will be compensated in some large way by the University for their acquiescence in the envisaged Observatory shutdown. On this third possible scenario, they stand to gain substantially, receiving something like a third or a half of the proceeds from land sales.

Fortunately, it will eventually be possible to make some informed guesses, even given the veil of "donor confidentiality", regarding the proceedings. The University cannot ultimately, however secret the contract, conceal the size of the benefit it has translated into an endowment for the tangible, visible new Dunlap Institute. Will that benefit be 20 million CAD, or 40 million CAD, or 60 million CAD? The scale and magnificence of the Dunlap Institute will provide a clue: one will count, to to speak, the number of square metres of cleanroom floorspace in the newly built optical labs; or, again, one will look to see if the "Dunlap Medal" envisaged in the University's vision statement, the 2004 Faculty of Arts and Science internal document 'Defining and Building the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics', does in fact get awarded, and if it does, then with what accompaniments. And of course one will examine those numerous financial accounts of the University that are made public. Call that financial quantity, the sum eventually arriving in the holdings of the University, T.

Next, use S as a designation of the sum realized from the sale of current DDO assets and amenities (most notably from the sale of a part, perhaps a very large part, of the 76.9 hectares of land - perhaps all but a Martha-Stewart Zone, an MSZ, surrounding the main building, the great dome, the best trees, the radio-shack outbuilding, and the historically important 1860s "Marsh home" or "Director's Residence"). If S cannot be determined by other means, it can at least be estimated through conversations with property-market specialists, well used to appraising the value of the greater part of a 76.9-hectare parcel. For appraisal purposes, the following description is surely enough for drafting the first round of detailed real-estate queries: this is a parcel as yet unfurnished with sewers and similar infrastructure, and yet within 2 kilometres of the Richmond Hill central business district, and a little closer still to the Richmond Hill commuter-rail station, and roughly a ten-minute walk from the principal Richmond Hill bus-transit line (the "VIVA bus down Yonge to the Finch subway"; there is a potentially important obstacle here, in that between the property and Yonge runs the busy CN rail line, presently unsupplied with appropriate vehicular level crossings or overpasses), and flanked on its eastern boundary by a more minor bus-transit line (the "Bayview Avenue bus down to the Finch subway").

Finally, call the sum accruing to the Dunlap family, once every vendible thing is sold, D. The tribunal of public opinion will be able to estimate D, eventually, as the difference between S and T.

This third possibility is, to repeat, potentially disturbing. For S may be a large quantity. The Wikipedia article on Richmond Hill, as downloaded at or very near the Coordinated Universal Time of 20070912T225756Z, has a pair of relevant demographic remarks. On the one hand, Wikipedia has this: 'Richmond Hill is now one of the fastest growing communities in Canada, with a large and multicultural population. It had 162,704 residents according to the 2006 Census, representing 23% growth from the previous census. The town's population is projected to exceed 200,000 by the year 2015.' On the other hand, Wikipedia has this: 'Richmond Hill is a disproportionately upper-middle class to upper-class town, with average family income in Richmond Hill at $102,400, among the highest in Canada. This fact has earned the town the nickname "Rich Man's Hill." Along with Oakville, Ontario it ranks as one of the wealthiest suburbs in Ontario.'

Inspection of maps and photographs in the local-history room at the central branch of the Richmond Hill Public Library vividly reinforces a point already known in at least an abstract way to everyone: the character of Richmond Hill has changed since the 1935 opening of the Observatory, with the old farming town transformed into a dormitory suburb for the Toronto central business district. In 1935, Richmond Hill was decidedly rural. Back then, the Anglican, Presbyterian, United, and Catholic spires dominated a modest skyline of single-occupancy dwellings, narrowly clustered along the one big street, Yonge. (To reach the Toronto commercial core, one back then followed, as nowadays one still follows, Yonge Street 20 or 25 kilometres south. In some happy period, conceivably including the year 1935, a streetcar ran down Yonge.) The railway station in those days was a plain box of the dimensions appropriate to a prosperous village. Whereas now going the 2 kilometres from Observatory to town centre is a matter of walking the streets, back then it must have been a matter of walking country roads.

One DDO-connected professor, X, whom I consulted informally and very briefly on property values, without exhibiting a draft of this essay, has said that a certain study or consultation, which I know to have been performed ten or more years ago, ascribed to the property a value of 150 million CAD. A second DDO-connected professor, Y, to whom I presented the figure from X, again without exhibiting an essay draft, has said that this figure might be unrealistic, and that a more careful estimate of the value of the land might give a figure of 60 or 90 million CAD. And on 2007 September 12, the community newspaper, the Richmond Hill Liberal, wrote that the land 'is estimated to be worth anywhere from $75.6 to $113 million'.

In preparing the current version of this essay, I have not had the time to consult with Richmond Hill realtors, and so must now content myself with taking, as a basis for this discussion, the (conservative?) guesstimate of 80 million CAD.

The exact degree of unacceptability in the "third possibility" - the exact degree to which the potential for a disturbingly anti-community outcome gets actualized - would depend on the exact character of the sale. Up to this point, I have in developing this possibility assumed that the sale would yield pretty much the expected real-estate-developer value of the land. I have, in other words, up to this point assumed the sale to be, to a reasonable commercial approximation, a sale to one of the higher bidders. It could be that the politics of the situation will eventually indeed lead to a sale, but to a sale that brings in only a modest fraction of the commercial value of the land. This would be the case if, for instance, some government entity or private-sector philanthropic entity were to put in a low bid while promising to keep the land free from real-estate development, and the Dunlap heirs and the University were to consider themselves morally compelled, through a due regard for the so-heavily-burdened ecology of Richmond Hill, to accept that low bid.

What, we now ask, is our University's freedom for manoeuvre in the event of a low, ecologically conservationist, bid? Is our University in principle free to entertain a commercially unrealistic, and yet environmentally benign, bid, or has it contractually ceded this freedom in its two-decades-long closed-doors discussions with the Dunlap heirs?

I rephrase and reiterate my question, and I have in earlier versions of this essay herewith courteously requested a formal answer, in advance of the Governing Council 2007 October 30 meeting, from our President's Office: Does the University (1) assert itself presently able, given its present donor-confidential contractual arrangements with the Dunlap family, to act for the acceptance of a green-rich, cash-poor ("low-and-green") bid, for substantially less than the normal real-estate-developer value of the property, should such a bid be made by some hypothetical entity promising to save the lands from real-estate development? Or does the University (2) assert itself presently unable, given its donor-confidential contractual arrangements, to act for the acceptance of such a hypothetical "low-and-green" bid? Or does the University (3) decline to make either of these two assertions?

The University's reply, as communicated in papermail dated 2007 October 23, was unclear, but perhaps inclined more in the direction of the second alternative than of the first or third:

The sale of the property will be done through an open and transparent process. The University intends to issue the request for proposals shortly after receiving formal approval at the next Governing Council meeting on October 30, 2007. The University will consider all bids to purchase the property. In keeping with its fiduciary obligation to support its academic mission, the University's priority will be to maximize the value that it receives such that the resulting endowment will be able to continue to support leading research and teaching in astronomy for generations to come.

As a convenience to readers who need to see these sentences from the University in context, I reproduce the entire letter in an Appendix to this essay.

My question thus disposed of, I now resume the main thread of this analysis. Under what is here being called the "third possibility", the Dunlap heirs would be compensated by the University in some large way, amounting to perhaps one-third or one-half of the proceeds from the sale of the vendible things, most notably the land. If "low-and-green bids" were to be rejected, the third possibility would become disturbing. For we could then apply a calculation on the basis of the full, cash-rich, anti-green, 80 million CAD guesstimate. Half of 80 million CAD would translate into a pre-tax benefit to the Dunlap heirs of 40 million CAD. One-third of 80 million CAD would translate into a benefit of 27 million CAD. Although I am very ready to be corrected by anyone at all, and most emphatically by the legal counsel of the Dunlap family, as I prepare and Web-publish and disseminate later versions of this essay, I think my readers will agree that I develop my speculations conservatively when I suggest that were the "third possibility" in its "cash-rich bid" version to be the true one, the Dunlap family could stand to gain, before tax, a sum of, to one significant figure, 30 million CAD.

Why is this third possible scenario, as herewith imaginatively developed with the imagined acceptance of a cash-rich bid, disturbing? The scenario is disturbing because if it were to eventuate, the Dunlap heirs would be subverting their ancestor's intentions, through converting what at the time of donation seemed to be, and was surely in all honesty intended to be, a gift into something different, namely, into an investment.

A calculation will help make this idea vivid. We start with the initial value of the donation, in the currency of the day: either 500,000 USD or (what was surely to one significant figure the same financial quantity) 500,000 CAD. (A useful Web source for that figure, and a source that, while misstating the distance from Richmond Hill to Toronto, in other respects supplies authentic period colour, is the deliciously naive writeup in the American newsmagazine Time for 1935 June 10. That writeup is accessible by googling on the string dunlap observatory gift rich retired lawyer grubstaking. Google quickly reveals an article entitled 'No. 2 at Work'. The magazine's 'No. 2' refers to the opening-day, 1935 May 31, ranking of the Observatory's 1.88-metre reflector, as second in the world behind the "hundred-inch" on Mount Wilson. The "hundred-inch" passed through a midlife crisis of its own some years ago, being non-operational for the period 1986-1992. Now, however, it is back in solid service, benefiting from the continuing steady atmosphere of its site, and braving the admittedly troublesome light pollution from neighbouring Pasadena, near Los Angeles.)

It is useful to convert the sum of 500,000 CAD from the era of David Dunlap Observatory construction into the currency of 2007, to one significant figure. A consultation of the Bank of Canada Inflation Calculator (based on monthly Consumer Price Index data), at or very near the Coordinated Universal Time of 20070913T010910Z, through a browser pointed to, yields a result of 8 million CAD. Should the disturbing "third scenario" with "cash-rich bid" be the correct one, then Jessie Donalda Dunlap's altruistic input of, in the currency of 2007, 8 million CAD would yield a pre-tax output, in that same currency, to her Dunlap heirs of 30 million CAD.

How does this rank as an investment? It is surely not unreasonable for a portfolio, held through eight tumultuous decades (including decades of depression, world war, OPEC shock, cold war, and the like) to turn 8 million CAD (in the values of 2007) into 30 million CAD (in the values of 2007). Indeed a reasonable objective for a portfolio manager is simply to retain the real value of capital: a rational community does not, as a rule, applaud the renting-out of money by userers, since the holder of a usury-loan portfolio is liable to be getting rich through making the community as a whole poorer. So as an investors, the Dunlap family will have done well for themselves over the 80 years - not, indeed, getting the return proper to a portfolio of usury loans, but, through accepting a cash-rich bid, having done something that counts as respectable in conservative banking circles. That on this scenario the University of Toronto downtown campus benefits as well is, as the authors of corporate management how-to books might say, a "cost of business," to be borne gladly in a "win-win situation." That Jessie Donalda Dunlap's original gift has on this scenario now assumed, contrary to her intentions, the character of an investment is, well, embarrassing, but then she did die in 1948 or thereabouts, and that is so far in the past that her intentions cannot now be allowed to count for everything, and in particular cannot now be allowed to favour a low-and-green bid over a cash-rich, environmentally destructive, bid.

And the damage to the southern half of Richmond Hill, which on this scenario now loses one of its last remaining ecologically undisturbed greenspaces?

And the damage to the global stellar-spectroscopy community, which on this scenario now stands to lose the best northern-hemisphere facility it has between sunrise on the Canary Islands and sunset at the MacDonald Observatory in Texas? Consider the probable consequences, were the DDO-embedding lands were to be diminished to a mere MSZ. The political will to keep any kind of observatory running under those circumstances would be correspondingly undercut. Realistically speaking, the DDO would become a museum, with "astronomy exhibits". Speaking unrealistically, the DDO might somehow get some kind of philanthropic funding, to enable some token efforts at spectroscopic research, as a sop to outraged public opinion: but even this possibility, rosy as it is, would see the DDO soldiering on for at most a few quinquennia, until the times get hard. (The question of coming hard times, which I only hint at now, I develop in the modest-but-sufficient detail both toward the end of the next section and at the beginning of the final section.) The choice is stark: keep the land intact, and DDO astrophysics has a chance of surviving, somehow, however grimly, over the coming century; surrender the land, and DDO astrophysics can survive at best in the near term.

How can a price be put on these two losses, on the one hand the ecological, on the other hand the scientific? The first threatened loss I analyze in the next section, and the other in the section to follow.

5. Corrections (b): "Proposals for Development"

The news-release writer, Rita Pocius, very kindly saw me in person when I visited the University of Toronto Public Affairs Office on 2007 September 11. In the course of our short, amicable, stand-up meeting, I remarked to Ms. Pocius that she could not be blamed for the inaccuracies in the release, writing as she was under instructions from superiors.

In the course of our meeting, Ms. Pocius confirmed to me that 'request for proposals' really does mean what, given the context, most readers will expect it to mean, namely 'request for (real-estate) development proposals', and I have modified her wording accordingly. But behind this small clarification in wording, merely making explicit what was previously said by implication, there lurk issues of environmental stewardship.

An initial idea of the magnificence of the land, so far as the lawns and ornamental trees adjacent to the Observatory buildings are concerned, may be had by googling with the string dunlap observatory photos taken Don Fernie during two days september 2000. This search leads to photo-album material from 2000 September 22 and 2000 September 24, admittedly before the current phase of development in gardening.

The serious student of the Observatory land problem should next proceed to the high-resolution aerial photograph of 2005 January 4, kindly made available to the DDO webmaster by Prof. Michael de Robertis of York University in Toronto, and linked from the same DDO Web page as introduces the 2000 September photo-album material. The aerial photo is best viewed by first saving it to disk, then opening it with some magnification-capable viewer. In Linux, such an opening operation can be performed with the tool known as display or with Gimp. In Microsoft and Macintosh, Adobe Photoshop would no doubt perform the same service.

The photograph makes it clear that the 76.9 hectares of farmland and forest surrounding DDO are a unique resource, constituting an ecologically undisturbed island amid many kilometres of buildings and asphalt.

What the photograph does not make clear is that the land is geologically a part of the Oak Ridges Moraine. That natural feature is encroached upon elsewhere in the York Region by development, and is in part preserved, and is in one way and another now the focus of lively debates regarding conservation. The Oak Ridges character of the property is indicated by the failure of the 1930s Observatory excavators to reach bedrock in digging deep foundations for telescope piers. That same character is indicated by the presence of numerous springs on the property, perhaps as many as ten of them. (Of the springs, I so far know just one from personal observation, the one now diverted into a drain near the gatehouse.)

So substantial, and at present so undisturbed, is the land that it is possible for there to be ten deer on the property at once. The property is, admittedly, for the deer simply the northern, and one presumes the uniquely welcoming, terminus of their ranging ground, which encompasses also a grassy ribbon of busy railway right-of-way and a quiet grassy corridor for high-voltage pylons. I have myself on many occasions been delighted to see two or three or four deer grazing in the pre-dawn light on the lawn just east of the main building. And on the first major writing day for this essay, 2007 September 12, I was surprised to see, upon my emerging from a short forest trail, an adult deer and a juvenile, both rather fearless, just steps away from the main building, in the full glare of the sunny late afternoon.

The ecologically undisturbed character of the property is further indicated by the presence of coyotes, which prey on the deer in a perpetual illustration of the Lotke-Volterra population model from one's maths or physics coursework. Those coyotes are numerous enough, at least on occasion, to howl in packs, in an eerie chorus that might make one mistake the young DDO woodlands for the ancient forests of the Canadian Shield. (Stands of trees, now mature, were planted on the originally open farmland after 1935 to stabilize the local atmosphere, or in the parlance of telescope operations, the "seeing". One especially fine stand of Norway spruce, between the main dome and the gatehouse lodge, dates, I vaguely believe, from around 1948.)

Foxes are by nature harder to observe, but I have seen at least one, and of course there are squirrels and rabbits.

Until my death, I will associate bird life in this inexpressibly beautiful property with a certain woodpecker. It was the late winter of 2003, in February or March, at that point in which the imminent turning of the season is heralded by a certain change in illumination: the day is now long, the day is now bright, even as the air remains cold. I was leaving the snowbound grounds painfully late, after a night's work on NASA NStars, the morning sun (if I recall correctly) already well clear of the horizon. It was at this point that the woodpecker made its tapping, in trees somewhere to my southwest as I walked northward toward the gatehouse along the main drive. I was leaving to return by public transit to my lodging, then in downtown Toronto, where I feared there would be an answering-machine message from the government of Saddam Hussein, assuring me that my visa application for service as a human shield had been granted, and through that assurance welcoming me to prewar Iraq. On hearing the woodpecker's tapping, I thought, "I shall not pass this way again."

All else in my life (the expected Iraq visa, it turns out, never did come through) now assumes the character of a gift: not of a "gift" in the twisted meaning that this word might bear in the business world, but in the true meaning of that word - a gift in the sense in which the life of a child is a gift, a gift in the sense in which a friendship is a gift, a gift in the sense in which the Contents of paten and chalice at Mass are gifts, a gift in the sense in which h and chi Persei in a low-power eyepiece are gifts.

Others, including a naturalist who makes her home a short walk from the DDO gate, and the sole remaining full-time telescope operator Heide DeBond, know the bird life better than I do. Heide, in particular, has helped me identify an owl (I suspect, a great horned owl), and has mentioned hawks, kestrels, and a recent nesting pair of golden eagles.

This, then, is the resource, perhaps the sole remaining tract of substantial undisturbed ecologically diversified land in the southern half of Richmond Hill, a tract whose flanking lawns are constantly visited by townsfolk and their delighted children and delighted dogs, that faces destruction through a 'request for real-estate development proposals'.

Why is the "development" of such land so manifest an evil? At a deep level, the answers to this must be spiritual. At a pragmatic level, one points, however, to the world's petroleum supply. Urban-planning authority James Howard Kunstler writes of the current financial-market turmoil in his weekly Web column for 2007 September 10 (at in the following grim terms: 'All this occurred against the background of what has come to be called Peak Oil, the turnaround point in global oil production, and indeed the all-time high-point of world oil consumption, which can be dated precisely now (in the rearview mirror) as having topped absolutely in July of 2006…'

I realized problem of Peak Oil later than many. The sunrise of awareness was in my case the summer of that terrible year already referred to, 2003. The first draft of my non-commercial Web-published book on the Peak Oil theme, 'Utopia 2184' I completed shortly before the blackout of 2003 August 14. When I wrote, a barrel of oil was trading at a little below 30 USD. Now, however, at or very near the Universal Coordinated Time 20070913T041747Z, is carrying a story with the phrase 'Oil prices have risen above $80 a barrel for the first time.'

In the opinion of many, including independent petroleum geologists (one authority that comes to mind is Prof. Kenneth Deffeyes in Princeton), the price of oil is destined to rise still further, with eventual catastrophic consequences for communities such as Richmond Hill. What role will the town have when driving a private motorcar down to the Toronto central business district becomes prohibitively expensive? We may guess the answer from the grim example of Rio de Janeiro. The community that started life as an Upper Canada farming village a little before Victoria's accession to the throne, that morphed in the 1960s and 1970s and 1980s from country town into dormitory suburb, is destined over the coming decades to morph again - to crumble into what is in Rio de Janeiro termed a favela, its municipal infrastructure now functioning only patchily, its property values now destroyed.

The fundamental principle of commerce is to sell, where possible, when the market is high, a little before it turns down. This, then, proves indeed an opportune time to sell the David Dunlap Observatory grounds, to put out 'a request for real-estate development proposals'. We thereby secure on the one hand a financial advantage for ourselves (be we astronomers only or, as the various donor-confidential possibilities may have it, a mix of astronomers and Dunlaps), on the other hand a non-farmable asphalt-and-townhouse expanse for our grandchildren, in the impending hungry decades.

6. Corrections (c): "Unsuitable for ... Research Purposes"

Having rather early in this essay established my credentials, I now repeat, as my own private professional judgement, that the press-release statement regarding DDO research relevance is demonstrably false. (Indeed, I speculate - but I am not trained in law - that the falsehood is so patently demonstrable that a competent court, weighing it in the course of a civil suit, would judge it to be false.)

I have already alluded briefly to the NASA NStars survey. DDO in fact collaborated in the survey with the Steward Observatory in Arizona (through Fr Chris Corbally of the Vatican Observatory Research Group), the Dark Sky Observatory in North Carolina (where Prof. Richard Gray, the Principal Investigator in the NStars collaboration, was assisted by Mike McFadden), and a Carnegie Institution facility in Chile (where I believe that Mike McFadden served as a visiting observer).

The NStars collaboration is not the only recent instance of a vote-of-confidence connected with NASA. On the nights beginning with the sunset of 2003 July 17 and ending with the sunrise of 2003 July , a five-person team, led by Robert Slawson and Zoran Ninkov, observed at DDO in support of forward planning for the Kepler mission.

The NStars and Kepler arrangements can be examined in the DDO schedules archive, kept, with the exceptions of the current month and the month immediately preceding it, at The archive testifies also to other international collaborations.

I have already remarked that since beginning to operate in 2006 November, I have myself worked with Michal Siwak (from Poland), Theo Pribulla (from Slovakia), Waldek Ogloza (from Poland), Juan Gutierrez-Soto (from Spain), and Kalju Annuk (from Estonia). The two cases of Gutierrez-Soto and Annuk are perhaps in a special way instructive. The Gutierrez-Soto data was taken to support the French COROT orbiting-observatory mission. The Annuk data formed part of a coordinated campaign on a Wolf-Rayet binary with a four-day period, also observed photometrically in Kentucky and from space with the XMM-Newton X-ray satellite. Dr Annuk's home institution, Tartu Observatory in Estonia, itself possesses a 1.5-metre spectroscopy-capable reflecting telescope, physically housed in the science village of Tõravere, between Elva and Tartu. Sky glow in Tõravere is a less severe problem than in Richmond Hill, and yet Dr Annuk found the DDO equipment suitable for his purposes, expressing himself in private conversation with me, at the end of the visit, well satisfied with his coverage of the target binary. (I have a vivid mental picture of the relative capabilities of DDO and Tõravere, having personally visited Tõravere as a casual astronomical tourist in the summer of 1990, and having discussed many aspects of Tõravere operations with Dr Annuk. - To allay suspicions, I remark here that although I am myself a citizen of the tiny republic of Estonia, the fact that Dr Annuk applied for observing time at DDO has nothing to do with my own Estonian connections, being in fact very much a happy surprise both to me and to the DDO Associate Director.)

These examples could be multiplied threefold or fourfold, but the appropriate conclusion is clear already: the pattern of international collaborations (I am confident the same could be said of the flow of publications) proves DDO to be anything but, in the language of the 2007 September 10 press release, 'unsuitable for research purposes'.

I turn now to the vexed question of light pollution. From an amateur-astronomy standpoint, DDO is indeed compromised. The possessor of a 20-centimetre Dobsonian, such as I have in my own private kit, can hardly expect to get satisfying views of dimmer Messier objects, let alone of many NGC galaxies. And to my own (not-very-good) naked eye, the DDO sky, as tested against, for instance, the bowl stars in the Little Dipper, is washed out for any stars dimmer than magnitude 4. It is possible that writers unfamiliar with professional telescope operations, and consequently erroneously conceiving of such operations as consisting in the examining of stars, sketchpad in hand, at some visual eyepiece, have been led into misconceptions by these amateur-astronomy facts.

More relevant to the research capability of the DDO, on the other hand, is the fact that light pollution is not dramatically worse now than it was a couple of decades ago, when there was no urgent question of shutting the DDO down. Light pollution has doubtless crept up somewhat, although I lack the figures. A lighting bylaw (whose introduction is in part due to the efforts of a principal North American pioneer in astronomical light-pollution counterefforts, Prof. Tom Bolton of DDO) has put some brakes on the creeping, although again I lack specific figures. If light pollution is somewhat worse now than in the 1970s, it is also true that detectors are dramatically more sensitive. For every 100 incoming stellar photons, the photographic plates in use until about 1990 would respond to perhaps 2 or 5. The number for the current CCD detector is, by contrast, 40 or 60. (That number, in essence the so-called "quantum efficiency", varies a little with the colour of the selected light.)

These facts about history being what they are, the 2007 September 10 press release is puzzling. In its uncorrected version, it reads, 'light pollution caused by immense urban growth in the GTA has rendered the observatory unsuitable for academic and research purposes for quite some time'. What is the meaning of 'quite some time'? Unsuitable since 1990, when the new CCD detector technology became available? Unsuitable since 1970? What specific historical timeframe is meant here?

The severity of the DDO light-pollution limitation of course depends on the nature of the science planned for the night. As a very rough rule of thumb, one can hope for usable radial-velocity determinations and usable Morgan-Keenan temperature-luminosity spectral types for stars at least as faint as magnitude 12. Experience in the 2007 summer suggests that the limiting factor at the moment may not be the detector itself (that would be a rather fundamental engineering constraint) but the television camera that is used to facilitate guiding starlight onto the spectrograph slit (and that could, I rather suspect, be replaced for the price of one or two laptop computers with a more sensitive television-camera system).

Extragalactic astronomy is not, for the most part, feasible, no matter how good the television-camera guiding system, and it is true that extragalactic research is pursued with great vigour by the astronomers of the downtown campus. However, I believe that extragalactic astronomy was never a large and successful branch at the DDO - not even when light pollution was minimal, in the first three decades of operation. Moreover, the DDO experience since 2000 shows that at least one branch of extragalactic astronomy can still be pursued, namely the study of active galactic nuclei (AGNs). AGNs are the topic of DDO work by Prof. Michal de Robertis (of York University in Toronto) and Dr. Mel Blake (currently assisting Prof. Tom Bolton, but also currently analyzing recent DDO AGN data with Prof. de Robertis).

The precision of DDO stellar radial-velocity determinations is encouragingly high, in favourable cases on the order of plus-minus 1 kilometre/second. The late Prof. Karl Kamper of DDO demonstrated the possibility of achieving, with mere telluric lines in lieu of the now-familiar iodine-vapour-cell arrangement, a precision of plus-minus 100 metres/second, thereby putting DDO close to the exoplanet-detection threshold of plus-minus 50 metres/second. The idea of fitting DDO equipment with an iodine-vapour cell or similar gas cell was floated around that time, I vaguely think by the still-living Prof. John Lester with the late Prof. Kamper, but the downtown campus Department of Astronomy exercised a veto.

It will be said, 'Surely some specific parts of stellar spectroscopy, especially as far as radial-velocity studies are concerned, are severely compromised by the light pollution. How can DDO, for instance, obtain good radial-velocity measurements for the sodium doublet, given that this very wavelength pair is emitted by low-pressure sodium-vapour lamps in streets?' And yet even this line of thought is rebutted by the experience of the Gladders team in the "neutral hydrogen campaign", a circa-1998 study of upper and lower limits for distances to intermediate-velocity neutral-hydrogen clouds in our galaxy. It was necessary in the course of the work to measure the redshift or blueshift in the stellar sodium doublet, as a displacement, calibrable in kilometres/second, from the known pair of laboratory wavelengths. That the measurement proved feasible is seen from Gladders et al., writing in the Astrophysical Journal for 1998 November 10. Their (laconic) report of success occurs on page L163 of the paper: 'The spectra were preprocessed and extracted to one dimension using standard IRAF tasks. Great care was taken to ensure the correct removal of prominent sodium sky lines engendered by the DDO's close proximity to a major urban center.'

While admitting the severity of the light-pollution problem, especially as a constraint on extragalactic observing, I next note that I cannot myself think of a northern-hemisphere spectroscopy facility superior in telescope size to DDO and, like DDO, usable during the roughly 18 hours that in September separate sunrise at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory in the Canary Islands (longitude to the nearest degree: 18 degrees W) from sunset at the McDonald Observatory in Texas (longitude to the nearest degree: 104 degrees W). The implication of this is frightening. How is the astronomical community to react to an astrophysical emergency, such as a nearby supernova, requiring sudden northern-hemisphere observations at our longitude? Are the observations to come from Mont Mégantic in Québec? But this observatory, I hear from conversation with DDO-connected Professor X or Professor Y, while excellent in its fields of specialization (including infrared), does not have a robust optical radial-velocity capability. Are the observations to come, rather, from some much smaller telescope - say, from our very good and dear friends in North Carolina, operating with half our aperture, and cooling with liquid glycol in place of our liquid nitrogen? Is the University of Toronto here fully discharging its obligations, in a correctly noncompetitive spirit, to the international community of observers?

The frightening solitude of DDO as a northern observatory between 18 degrees W and 104 degrees W has a kind of echo in another statistic. The total number of observatories around the world that can offer stellar spectroscopy at a telescope aperture equal or superior to the DDO figure of 1.88 metres is frighteningly low. It may be that the figure is as high as 30 (already, the club is tiny, and the chance of world failure in any astrophysical emergency for any reason high), but it may be that the figure is as low as 20. Tartu Observatory in Estonia does not by any means find itself in extensive supporting company in northern Europe, and Tartu, as already noted, has in the summer of 2007 found it advantageous to observe at DDO. (I believe that Estonia's neighbours Finland, Sweden, and Latvia lack spectroscopy facilities of the aperture of Tartu, and I believe that Norway is likewise lacking. Additionally, I know that, as a flow-on from its unhappy experience in relocating Herstmonceux Castle equipment to the Canary Islands, Britain is now lacking. Each of Germany, France, Italy, Greece, and the Czech Republic, it is true, is either moderately well supplied or decidedly well supplied.)

A particularly baffling implication of the press-release charge that the DDO is 'unsuitable for … research purposes' is that the research so vigorously carried out by Dr Slavek Rucinski since his 1999 appointment by the downtown Department as DDO Associate Director does not in some sense 'suit'. Did the University mean, in wielding its language of 'unsuitability', to condemn a large, highly visible, and until the autumn of 2007 continuing, series of Rucinski et al. papers, which have made the DDO a world centre in spectroscopy of close ("EW-type") binaries? Did the University consider it necessary in 2007 to condemn not the ongoing work of its visitors alone but also of its own 1999 appointee? Had the University, indeed, some still wider astrophysical ambition, some still more global missionary zeal? Was its goal perhaps to condemn as 'unsuitable' the Pribulla-Rucinski hypothesis (on which EW-type binaries form in three-body systems as a third body moves outward, making conservation-of-angular-momentum drive the other two stars into proximity; Astronomical Journal for 2006 June) - a hypothesis for which the multi-year, multi-target, multi-observer Rucinski programme is now offering a measure of painstaking empirical confirmation? I have posed my questions in language that is deliberately rhetorical and absurd, so as to bring out the Monty-Python aspect of the situation in the most vivid admissible way. The University had in 2007 no thought of undermining the research credibility of its own esteemed 1999 appointee: it did not here, in its Faculty-of-Arts-and-Science-vetted language of 2007 September 10, attain the dignity of cogitation.

The 2007 September 10 press release speaks also of academic unsuitability. This error need not be accorded a lengthy rebuttal, such as has herewith been offered for the demonstrably false, indeed (as I have just finished by noting, in my reference to the Pribulla-Rucinski hypothesis) comic, assertion of research unsuitability. It will be evident to all readers that from an undergraduate academic standpoint, access to a 1.88 -metre telescope with liquid-nitrogen cooling yields a learning experience superior not just in degree but in kind to the learning experience afforded by a small, Peltier-cooled, telescope on the roof of the downtown Burton Tower, where light pollution must be at least as bad as at any other site in Canada. I am indeed puzzled by the failure of the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics to incorporate the DDO in recent undergraduate teaching, given the memorable success of the Mochnacki-with-Gladders-with-DDO collaboration mounted when I myself took the third-year observing course, in the academic year 1997/1998. (In that academic year, light pollution at DDO was of course much as it is now, and the detector was a little less sensitive than the current one.) External reviewers of the Department, and also the incoming Dean in the Faculty of Arts and Science, may find it helpful to inquire into the reasons for this puzzling undergraduate teaching arrangement.

As far as graduate-level academic work is concerned, the proof that DDO has much to offer is in the historical record: in the late 1990s, Mike Gladders and other graduate students thought through, executed, and brought to publication (with several papers) the beautiful intermediate-velocity neutral-hydrogen-cloud study already referred to.

A final point remains to be made regarding DDO and academic work, and regarding also one specialized aspect of research. Apart from the 1.88-metre telescope, DDO possesses two other telescopes. The 0.4-metre instrument in the south dome of the main building, of great historic interest as the handiwork of a DDO-founding astronomer, is of possibly disputed optical quality, and its dome-turning mechanism was believed by DDO daytime engineer Yakov Voronkov, in an inspection in my presence around 2005, to have suffered some non-trivial electrical fault. Here, then, is equipment of possibly only peripheral relevance to the University's teaching mission. Concerning its research mission, I know only that it was used for photomultiplier-tube photometry at some point in the 1970s, by some graduate student, surely from the University of Toronto, assisted by at least one high-school student.

The central dome of the main building, by contrast, houses an optically robust 0.6-metre telescope, possibly from the 1960s, used in photomultiplier-tube photometry as recently as the 1990s. Dome rotation was in order, and navigation in essentially usable order, in 2005, when I spent some first-halves-of-nights on the instrument as a kind of informal mentor for Prof. Robert F. Garrison's young assistant Adam De Thomasis, at that point I believe already enrolled in a science-intensive engineering undergraduate programme at Queen's University in Kingston. The declination motor failed in the first few hours after the sunset of 2005 July 30, conceivably for some such trivial reason as a tripped circuit breaker or a bad relay, and conceivably because of some fault in that small motor itself. It is likely to be the case that the 0.6-metre telescope could be brought back into service for an expenditure of just a few hundred dollars, if only personnel could now be found to operate it. Could the personnel be recruited from among the graduate students, and could those students make an engineering investigation and revival of the telescope, followed by some modest CCD photometry, the topic of an academic project?

The 'specialized aspect of research' relevant to the 0.6-metre telescope is the development of instrumentation. It is of interest that the envisaged Dunlap Institute has among its mandates the developing of instrumentation. Instrumentation development was a goal of DDO in bygone decades, and the 0.6-metre is already fitted with a specially massive counterweight, designed to make the optics serve as an instrument-development testbed.

Leaving the allegation of academic unsuitability out of the equation, we may ask: How could a damaging factual error regarding research unsuitability have crept into the 2007 September 10 press release? It is possible in retrospect to see what happened. In its eagerness to make a case, the Faculty of Arts and Science, the entity ultimately responsible for instructing the press-release writer, pardonably blurred two distinct concepts: there is, on the one hand, the concept of suitability for 'research purposes' in general; and there is, on the other hand, the concept of suitability for those specific 'research purposes' belonging to the current Departmental research strategy. It is fair to say that the DDO does not fit well with those specific 'research purposes', and one has much sympathy for the Departmental administrators in their difficulty.

7. What We Can Save

The Faculty of Arts and Science 2004 internal document 'Defining and Building the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics' suffers from the lack of a realistic vision of the context in which the Department and University are constrained to operate over coming decades. It is a failure in a mental faculty or department so famously lauded by Einstein, the faculty of imagination - in the present specific case a failure to generate a plausibly, believably, realistically tragic vision of both our political institutions and our biosphere.

Such grim, large themes I must develop only briefly here, taking them to belong more properly to my short book 'Utopia 2184', or, what is better, to works in this same genre by properly established authors. One such work, deservedly influential, is the recent Short History of Progress, the book-publisher release of Ronald Wright's Massey Lectures. But it is essential to provide intellectual foundations here, supplying, however briefly, a broad course of readings, in which the necessary themes are illuminated from the necessary range of angles.

(a) Ronald Wright, then, provides a deep analysis of our cultural predicament.

(b) James Howard Kunstler's 2005 book The Long Emergency is a journalistic appraisal, focusing on the practicalities of politics and economics, and most especially on the practicalities of urban design. The Web reader in a hurry can get much of the flavour of the book by reading Jim Kunstler's Rolling Stone essay under the same title, and from the same year (through googling on, for example, kunstler long emergency). Here's a pertinent quote from the essay. Although Kunstler writes of America, his words apply equally well to Canada:

America is in a special predicament due to a set of unfortunate choices we made as a society in the twentieth century. Perhaps the worst was to let our towns and cities rot away and to replace them with suburbia, which had the additional side effect of trashing a lot of the best farmland in America. Suburbia will come to be regarded as the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world.

(c) Several excellent authors now try to chronicle our most likely future in the emerging epoch of fuel shortages and climate change: namely, a slow, irregular civic decline, in which each decade, each generation, proves just incrementally grimmer than its predecessor.

The imaginative task is basically to set oneself in the Rome of the 380s, the 390s, the early 400s, the later 400s, and then to imagine those conditions of slow decline transposed to the twenty-first and twemty-second centuries. The "fall" of Rome was real, and to Augustine terrible, and yet was so slow that inner essence of the events must have eluded even many a connected, informed, well-read patrician. The barbarians come, they mill around, they leave for a while; the denarius is worth so much this year, and so much the year next; and somehow, at least until Alaric hits upon the idea of blockading Ostia, some grain keeps coming in, from the traditional sources of supply in Egypt or North Africa, so the plebs never do start a big revolution; and even after Alaric's watershed Sack, in 410, there is perhaps enough grain to stave off outright Roman famine: where, in all this, a well-meaning patrician might ask, is the ever-so-hyped "fall"?

Of the excellent imaginative scenarios-for-decline now available from pens more authoritative than mine, let me here mention just one set, the 2006 Christmas trilogy from American druidic theologian John Michael Greer. One way of retriving the Greer's three connected narratives is to google first on christmas eve 2050 greer, then on solstice 2100 greer, and finally on nawida 2150 greer.

Finally, (d) the serious student of the twenty-first-century social context cannot overlook an ancient, and yet astonishingly prescient, essay, Fred Hoyle's 'The Anatomy of Doom', from his 1968 collection Encounter with the Future. (Yes, that's right: the author is indeed none other than Hoyle the Cambridge astrophysicist, in 1968 making a momentary excursion out of astronomy into social commentary, even as in 2003 another distinguished Cambridge astrophysicst, Prof. Sir Martin Rees, did, in his justly famed book Our Final Hour: A Scientist's Warning: How Terror, Error, and Environmental Disaster Threaten Humankind's Future In This Century .)

Of all the works I have read on our probable future decline, Hoyle's stands out for its grasp of the importance of preserving knowledge and its suggestion that the impending decline will be followed by periods of cultural revival, followed yet again by episodes of decline, and episodes of revival, in a process that ultimately encourages the survival of the more intelligent, pacifist, and civic-minded strains in the Homo sapiens gene pool. What he has to say regarding the preservation of knowledge is both deeply moving and deeply relevant to the longer-term DDO future (to the 'twenty-first century' of the 2007 September 10 press release):

It would be impossible to re-expand, at any rate after the first one or two cycles, if the whole of technology had to be rediscovered independently in every cycle. The first expansion, the one we are now living in, has important assets - coal, oil, high-grade metallic ores - that will not be available in later cycles. On the other hand, the later cycles will have the advantage of information from earlier times. Experience shows that knowledge dies very hard once it has been obtained - the acquisition of knowledge is essentially irreversible, a truth already recognized in the Garden of Eden. Not all of the multitude of libraries would disappear in the moments of catastrophe. Remnants would remain to be consulted by the survivors, or rather by survivors with the wits to consult them. Here is the selective factor. A serious re-expansion would not be possible except to the highly intelligent. Reading in a library is today merely the innocent pursuit of the scholar. In the future the ability to puzzle out the knowledge of the past will be decisive. Knowledge, organization, the library, these are the environmental factors that will determine the future. It may seem strange to the biologist to think of the library as a major environmental factor, but I think the strangeness comes form the newness of the concept rather than from any new principle.

It goes almost, but perhaps not quite, without saying that for 'library' here we may well read, in addition, such things as 'museum', 'Faculty of Engineering', and 'observatory'.

What, we now ask, is our University's assumption regarding the impending twenty-first-century social context? Our University authorities cannot be totally unaware of the large mass of literature from which I have here made selections. What have they to say about it? Is it their view that the pessimistic literature is in error - that our future decades, even into the far-off Nineties, will resemble the 1980s and 1990s, with Richmond Hill still a prosperous Toronto dormitory suburb (its social challenges still comparatively manageable), with air travel to remote observatories still routinely available to Toronto astronomers? My intellectual hero in these social matters is Hoyle. Surely theirs cannot be Bjørn Lomborg? The press release speaks of the 'twenty-first century'. Is this roseate fantasy the University's considered vision? Or is the University, rather, planning only for the next couple of decades, having forsworn (press-release writer Ruta Pocius's language of 'century' notwithstanding) serious attempts to plan beyond the Twenties and Thirties? I rephrase and reiterate my question, and I have in earlier versions of this essay herewith courteously requested a formal answer, in advance of the Governing Council 2007 October 30 meeting, from our President's Office, for my incorporation in later versions of this essay: What was the planning horizon for the David Dunlap Institute? Did the horizon extend (as the language of the press release, if taken literally, implies) beyond the Twenties and Thirties?

It has been said to me, plausibly, by Professor X or Professor Y, that our University planners think in terms of something like half-decades, even as elected Ottawa politicians are forced to, and that my own conceptual framework, with its emphasis on the longer term, is therefore not one that will come naturally to them. It is therefore not surprising that the University's reply, as communicated in papermail dated 2007 October 23, did not grapple with the question directly, speaking only of an endowment to 'support in perpetuity the evolving academic and research priorities of the Institute' and of support 'for generations to come'.

As a convenience to readers who need to see this language of 'perpetuity' and 'generations' in context, I reproduce the University's entire letter in an Appendix to this essay.

Now the time has come to leave University politics behind, addressing the dark long-term future that our University has perhaps dodged.

Passing for the moment over the eventual pauperization and brutalization of our communities, over the eventual descent of whole streets and neighbourhoods and regions into Brazilian favelas, I take for the moment the short term, the next couple of decades. For my first bite of the ever-so-sour cherry, I look out only to, as it might possibly be, the end of the Twenties and start of the Thirties.

No doubt the next couple of decades will see the survival of the magnificent main building, with its brass and marble, and also the survival of the main dome, and in addition the survival of the 1860s Director's House (a fine old propery, in brick, connected to the Marsh family active in the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837). Here is what survival is likely to mean. It's not nice:

A park of lawn, trees, and garden runs from Hillsview Drive to what was formerly the main DDO parking lot, and a wedge of that park embraces also the 1860s Director's House. The 2007-era DDO gardening is retained, even greatly expanded, with the 2007 private beds at the Director's House now added to the public domain. But south and east of that park, all is altered, in the interest of the final phase - in the interest of the last grasping, clinging decades - of the corporate entrepreneurship that spells our collective doom, and that makes the ultimate fate of Richmond Hill far grimmer than the ultimate fate of communities with adequate river water, soil, and cropland.

If we are like ancient Romans in this scenario, then our year is not 410 (at which point Rome is first sacked, leading Augustine to his realization that an era is ending), but something less dramatic, say 370. And here I add as a further piece of commentary on what's coming up that, through a set of chance circumstances not too closely connected with the Dunlaps, Jessie Donalda Dunlap's former Rosedale home has since some point in the twentieth century been the official lodging, the Chequers or the Rideau Hall, of University of Toronto Presidents:

The park is, of course, the much-dreaded "Martha Stewart Zone", the MSZ. Bracketing or framing the MSZ, under arrangements firmly enforced by the still-powerful officeholders of the Town of Richmond Hill, is a residential precinct for the very wealthy. Proximity to the MSZ carries more cachet than anything else in Richmond Hill, and so the developers promote, encourage, and sustain the MSZ, even through outright gifts. The homes closest to the MSZ, those with actual living-room-window views of the former DDO buildings and grounds, function for a while as a tiny echo of Toronto's Rosedale, that leafy old Beverley-Hills-in-Upper-Canada in which, ironically, Jessie Donalda Dunlap herself made her home. Those homes further from the MSZ, the most fortunately sited of them actually blessed with views of the just-mentioned elite, but none of them possessing views of the actual former DDO buildings and grounds, function for a while as a tiny echo of Toronto's respectable Roncesvalles, of Toronto's respectable Soho.

Within the former DDO, there is, thanks in part to the already mentioned self-interested developer philanthropy, a lively life of infotainment. There is "public outreach in astronomy", with talks and films. There is a token effort at research, although the really worthwhile stuff, the stuff that alone can prevent the Disneyfication of the former DDO, the hard and earnest "citizen science" described at, never takes off.

Later, when the times get worse, gates go up around the elegant streets bracketing and framing the MSZ and hired guards mount day-and-night patrols. Within these gates, a kind of civilized life lingers, even with Internet computers and wide-screen televisions, somewhat as civilized life must have lingered in the great Roman villas even after the 410 sacking. By now, the astronomical Disney World has shut down, even as in the Year of Grace 2007 the DDO seemed about to shut down, and the real work of astronomy is carried on under utterly different terms by utterly different people, of course by people who now lament their lack of access to a 1.88-metre telescope.

Actually, the work gets carried on by what I think of as my own people. Will they be monks, perhaps? Even monks within the so-unhappily-gestated Dunlap Institute in Toronto's urban core, combining lectures in general relativity with urban-core permaculturist vegetable gardening, bringing their water up from Lake Ontario on stout little carts of a mathematically advanced design? But anyway, on with the vision. At that remote time there comes to pass the very thing that I put into 'Utopia 2184', and so I may as well quote from what now proves to be a handy book:

'…the very Observatory was now a mere trace of masonry in a quiet mown hayfield in energy-starved, drought-stricken savannah, the onetime condominiums and shopping plazas of surrounding Richmond Hill now low piles of rubble on which tough goats grazed.'

An alternative, happier, vision (which I am resolved to do all in my legal power to bring to pass, even with placard and loudspeaker) is the following. We start from 2012 or so:

The computed property values in the portion of farmland bracketing or framing the MSZ, in the envisaged Rosedale of Richmond Hill, never did become spectacularly high. They were depressed in part through the general decline in North American real estate. That was a decline whose beginnings can be traced to the USA property market of 2006 and 2007, but whose effects were also quite perceptible in Canada over the crucial 48 months following the 2007 September 10 press release.

In addition, they were depressed intentionally (if brutal truth be told, they got maneuvered downward, on advice from, among others, sympathetic real estate specialists outside Richmond Hill) in a process of political action. Media coverage of the envisaged DDO closure had diminished the cachet of the envisaged Rosedale. This was espcially the case in 2008 and 2009, as the crisis precipitated by the press release of 2007 September 10 began maturing and television coverage began incorporating the inevitable footage of students, both from astronomy and from other disciplines, both from the University of Toronto and from farther afield, wielding their inevitable signs, banners, and megaphones. It was at this point that the phrase 'David Dunlap Observatory' temporarily took on, in the minds of broadcasting audiences throughout Canada, something of the familiarity of those newsreaders' catchphrases 'Sydney tar ponds' and 'Clayoquot Sound'.

The conservationists had proved themselves courageous and determined, at DDO as in other Canadian causes. At DDO, however, a special factor had acted in their favour: the Ground Zero for citizen action was separated by just 90 public-transit minutes from the academic and commercial core of Canada's largest conurbation.

Support from the international astrophysical community had played its part, as had even some support from the wider scientific community. The latter was thanks in some measure to a correctly low-key initiative in investigative reporting from the likes of New Scientist. It was a welcome initiative, and yet one whose details nobody in 2007 could have in any way foreseen.

Additionally, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) had observed and advised, to the limited extent permitted and prescribed by its mandate.

Now (the year is 2012 or so), the outline of the necessarily messy outcome can be discerned.

First, there has been no real-estate development. Clearly it is not now, if indeed it ever has been, in the interest of the Dunlap family's community standing to advocate real-estate development. And it looks increasingly unlikely, given the increasingly intricate tangle of University of Toronto debate, Town of Richmond Hill politics, Queen's Park politics, and even sporadic House of Commons expatiation (all this against an increasingly complex background of environmental rulings, with the complicating factor of NSERC), that there ever will be any real-estate development.

Second, plans are afoot not for the effete MSZ but for a serious thing that the Town of Richmond Hill has needed since as far back as the 1970s. Townspeople and their pets have always been welcome to walk on the lawns. What, however, has been lacking so far is a serious trail through the wilder parts of the grounds. Clearly the trail must be simple enough, and narrow enough, to minize damage to the wildlife, while just wide enough for our cross-country skiers in the snowy months. (In 2006 or 2007, cross-country skis were not well catered for, although the DDO lawns, rejoicing as they do in the ample dimensions of an English manor, proved for a pair or a few pairs of skis to be better than nothing, and so did get duly criss-crossed with tracks.) And it is clear to all that the trail must be as much educational as recreational, with tasteful interpretive signs explaining that here the forest is artificially planted from, as it might possibly be, 1948, and so is not representative of the authentic Upper Canadian "Carolinian"; that here a field is in the first stages of authentic regeneration into forest; that here a spring gives damp testimony to the underlying glacial moraine; and that over there, at the remote end of a vista, looms the onetime (and future?) Director's House. (The high political theatrics of 1837, to which the pioneering owners of the house were linked, call for quite a few expository sentences, making due allusion to the Marsh family.) And of course (so the relevant planning committees resolve) visitors shall be admonished, in quite strict language, to respect the wildlife and flora by not venturing off the trail, and shall be provided with garbage containers.

Third, the DDO is now more mothballed than dismantled, with many desks and books, and much of the less valuable equipment, still on site.

Fourth, the beginning can be traced of a thin, essentially anarchic, revival in the smitten institution, so painfully yanked out of, so to speak, comfortable Florida, and set down with so painful a bump (not indeed into the Brazilian favelas but) into, so to speak, the austerities of post-USSR Cuba.

In place of a formal multi-person establishment, there is a mere janitor, engaged under financial arrangements of an embarrassingly ad-hoc character by the Town of Richmond Hill in concert with the University, living on or near the grounds and patrolling among other things the now-empty Director's House. The janitor, charged first and foremost with keeping down the worst of the vandalism at the main building and the great dome, is of course eyes and ears for both the York Region Police and the University of Toronto Police.

Among the janitor's duties is checking that the intermittently operated main-building furnace keeps winter indoor temperatures above 7 degrees Celsius and that (to deter vandals) a few tens of watts of nocturnal electric light keep showing from the main building.

In the main-building basement, near that so-important furnace, are the first small signs of something big. This is a technological thing, not strictly astronomical, destined to assume increasing importance in the Town of Richmond Hill as the harsh decades wear on, in the "21st century" so optimistically and unrealistically envisioned in that press release of 2007 September 10. In the former optics shop a few steps from the furnace room there is now a group of four downtown students from Engineers without Borders (EWB). A problem for an organization such as EWB, and more broadly for any Faculty of Engineering, is the need for playroom space. It is one thing for the University to make teaching laboratories available, in all their downtown-campus regimentation. It is a different thing, and one whose necessity is so easily forgotten by the well-meaning professors, to provide playroom laboratories, in which equipment can be used in informal leisure, in which basic skills such as electronic fabrication can be honed at leisure, in which creativity can be fostered. Here, then, to the intense joy of EWB, is such a space, or indeed a quadruple of such spaces - a quadruple because the basement had kept, even into the sad September of 2007, not its optics workshop alone but also its duly equipped woodworking and metalworking shops, and because the main upstairs floor had kept its electronics shop.

The project of those four students, meeting two nights a week over the entire semester? It's a low-cost solar-flux concentrator, tailored to the latitude of Upper Canada, intended to at least triple the electric power output from a solar panel mounted near its focus, and designed to be mass-producible in such a social setting as Parkdale's Catholic Worker.

As the students huddle in their thick pullovers and blow on their chilled hands, we hear them discussing the ever-so-welcome, and predictable, topics, such as last Monday's antenna party at the downtown Hart House Amateur Radio Club, or again arrangements to put Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Toronto Centre amateur teams onto the two main-building telescopes, with EWB technical backup. But we hear them discussing also something out of the Toronto engineering-and-astronomy mainstream, namely the possibility of using the library upstairs, of course with the kind permission of the Arts and Science Dean, as a classroom for an ad-hoc ray-optics seminar, with emphasis on astronomical applications. It is to be a seminar not within the University of Toronto at all, but (this is the surprising part) a six-week seminar under the improvised mantle of Toronto's "Anarchist U", the minuscule entity promoting itself at One of those so-thoroughly-chilled Engineers without Borders recalls that although the Anarchist U has traditionally served radical social and political theorists, practical electronics was taught there in 2005 or 2006, attracting what turned out to be, at least in the nanoscale traditions of that institution, an unexpectedly large class.

Enough, however, for the moment, of those main-building facilities.

In spite of all that has happened, the great dome, a few tens of metres to the north-northwest of the main building, now harbours a stubborn undercurrent of activity. It is an undercurrent funded in part by excruciatingly modest, and yet stubborn, philanthropy, rather as Debian GNU/Linux and Amnesty International and Engineers without Borders and Greenpeace are stubbornly funded. In place of its former trio of solid computers, the warmroom now runs a pair of aging, kindly dontated, RAM-starved Linux boxes. On the observing floor, the 1.88-metre remains operable, its 1935 right-ascension and declination circles conveniently providing, as ever, a "look Ma, no computers!" navigation system accurate to plus-minus two arcminutes.

At the instrumental end of the 'scope, liquid-nitrogen cooling has been replaced with a humble Peltier module on a humble surplus CCD camera, its detector chip a modest 1024 pixels wide, jury-rigged into the familiar old grating spectrograph. That surplus camera is a long-term loan whose details nobody could possibly have foreseen as recently as three years ago, a loan from sympathetic colleagues in one of the prosperous European observatories somewhere west of the Elbe.

On eight nights a month, a ragged bevy of University of Toronto and York University graduate students, the Young Turks of their generation, is undertaking a modest programme of work, much in the spirit of the Gladders-et-alia neutral-hydrogen campaign from the late 1990s. Although nobody yet knows this happy fact, their work is destined to yield a somewhat similar harvest of solid publications - a couple of Astrophysical Journal papers, plus a chapter in a volume of IAU Symposium proceedings.

Now we fast-forward this little DVD. We run a little past, so to speak, the Anno Domini 410 Sack of Rome, indeed a little past that final Fall of Rome affixed by our schoolbooks to Anno Domini 476.

Later, when the times get worse, chainlink fences, with security gates and patrolling guards, appear around those parts of Richmond Hill where people continue to try living. The life persisting in those parts is not a dying civilized life, such as the culture that must have lingered in the big embattled erstwhile-Empire villas of 480 or 500 or 510. Rather, it is a life that looks forward, in a spirit of grim realism, to decades and generations of patching and scavenging and making-do and reinventing and dying and birthing. It is a life significantly nurtured by one of the few assets inherited from land-poor, water-poor Richmond Hill: the onetime DDO and its surrounding 76.9 arable hectares.

Here in the basement of the main building (its windows are still more or less secure against the weather) are people, said to be the heirs of half-remembered old "Engineers without Borders", who can offer gratuitous advice in aspects of applied science. Do you need to know how to spot-weld your donkey plough? Are you curious about the possible resale value of the sodden electronics your cousin so unexpectedly pulled out of that ruin at Newkirk Road and Major Mac? They'll tell you, or else they'll fire up a homebrew rig at, say, 7.1130 megahertz and get onto the slow packet-radio TCP/IP Internet-for-the-poor and hunt for someone in Massachusetts or Cambridgeshire who might be able to tell you.

But again, enough of this engineering: how is astronomy doing?

It is a cold, dry February morning, the Upper Canada winter temperature in this hungry and fuel-starved epoch of global warming half a Celsius degree below freezing. Down town, there is no Dunlap Institute. There never has been a Dunlap Institute, or at least there never has been much of one. But there is still, just as there was three human generations before the Dunlap Institute got mooted, an astronomy Department.

We dimly see figures, of a cultural background we cannot readily understand, combining their lectures in general relativity with permaculturist activity. Today they are preparing for that nowadays-ever-so-early spring planting by venturing down to the shoreline, bringing water up from Lake Ontario on stout little carts.

Two figures, only dimly seen, detach themselves from the group and, backpacks loaded with bread and goat cheese and dome logbooks and slide rules, head up St. George and Bloor, past the ruins at Yonge and St. Clair, bound for Richmond Hill.

We follow on that bracing half-day hike:

The sun now setting, the travellers leave Yonge at what was once, and perhaps to some old local people still is, known as Clarissa. The crude and broken Clarissa track leads now, as it did in 2007, past the south facade of a fine old farmhouse, erected some tens or few hundreds of metres away a few years before Victoria's accession, and moved to Clarissa late in the twentieth century as a careful tribute to the Richmond Hill colonial epoch. Tiny German Mills Creek still flows, and there is a crude plank bridge, good enough for pedestrians and carts. Next comes the railway line, one pair of rails still gleaming faintly from periodic use.

And now the trees! And now the familiar winding roadway! To our travellers' left, the field soon opens up, manicured lawn from the Era of Cheap Fossil Fuels now largely replaced by vegetable beds edged with severely trimmed Buxus sempervirens, in the manner of what coffee-table-book purchasers from 2007 knew as HRH-the-P-of-W Charles's Highgrove kitchen gardens.

We realize to our joy, as we see our visitors clear the roadway ditch and proceed northeast to the dome rather than due east to the still-extant main building, that an observing run is scheduled.

'Mere traces of masonry in quiet mown hayfield'? No. In this vision, the Richmond Hill people, working with the University of Toronto people, have had the foresight and fortitude to prevent things reaching so radical a stage of decline.

The scheduled run will harness technologies whose crude character we can but dimly discern. (Will there be, perhaps, a mere filar micrometer, appropriate for visually taking position angle and separation of the majestic, slow-circling binaries - binaries whose exact observation is as much a charge on all humanity now as it was when Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve took delivery of mission-critical Fraunhofer equipment in the Tartu of 1824 November?) But one thing we do discern through the deepening purple twilight. This is going to be a run scheduled for an astronomical institution, at once the pride and the solace of diminished Richmond Hill, that still bears the Dunlap name.

7. Appendix: Selected Documentation

(A) The following was sent to Toomas Karmo as papermail with postmark 2007 October 24:

October 23, 2007

Dr. Toomas Karmo
253 College Street
Box 189
Toronto, Ontario M5T 1R5

Dear Dr. Karmo:

RE: David Dunlap Observatory

I write on behalf of the University of Toronto in response to your recent emails about the David Dunlap Observatory lands. Thank you for your interest in this property. This property was given to the University by the Dunlap family to support its academic mission in the field of astronomy. The David Dunlap Observatory has had a rich history of achievement over the previous decades. However its value as a research facility has diminished significantly because of the light pollution resulting from being situated in the GTA as well as changes in both technology and academic priorities of the University. The University with the agreement of the Dunlap family has decided to sell the property and allocate all of the proceeds that it receives towards an endowment in support of a new Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics. The endowment will support in perpetuity the evolving academic and research priorities of the Institute.

The sale of the property will be done through an open and transparent process. The University intends to issue the request for proposals shortly after receiving formal approval at the next Governing Council meeting on October 30, 2007. The University will consider all bids to purchase the property. In keeping with its fiduciary obligation to support its academic mission, the University's priority will be to maximize the value that it receives such that the resulting endowment will be able to continue to support leading research and teaching in astronomy for generations to come.

Thank you again for your interest in the David Dunlap Observatory and the future of astronomy at the University of Toronto.

Yours truly,

Catherine J. Riggall
Vice-President, Business Affairs

cc: David Naylor

This letter of 2007 October 23, with its noncommittal two occurrences of the verb 'receives', is worded in such a way as to leave open the question whether any funds flow from the sale to the Dunlap family. In interpreting the letter, it is useful to recall a portion of the Globe and Mail article on DDO published on 2007 October 16:

After lengthy discussions, the family has agreed to re-endow the university, with the sale proceeds apparently being divided between the university and the Dunlap descendants.

"The university's share will actually be the single largest portion," said [Faculty of Arts and Science Dean] Prof. [Pekka] Sinervo, although he would not provide precise details.

It would also be useful to know if this communication is a mere form letter, or whether, on the contrary, it was specifically written for Toomas Karmo, its recipient, in an attempt to address in some oblique way the two specific questions he put to the UofT (low-and-green bids to be taken seriously, or not? planning horizon for Dunlap Institute to be taken as the whole twenty-first century, or only as the next couple of decades?). Have any readers of this Web site themselves received letters from Prof. Riggall with which the just-quoted letter can fruitfully be compared?

(B) The following letter of 2008 September, from the then Chair of the Ontario Heritage Trust to the then (Ontario) Minister of Culture, was obtained in the winter of 2008-2009 under the Freedom of Information Act by a co-worker of Toomas Karmo's in the DDO conservation movement. The letter is over the letterhead "ONTARIO HERITAGE TRUST An agency of the Government of Ontario". The letter bears two rubber stamps, one saying "RECEIVED", at "Ministry of Culture Correspondence Unit", with date 2008 September 23, the other saying "RECEIVED", at "Minister's Office MINISTRY OF CULTURE", likewise with date 2008 September 23:

September 22, 2008

The Honourable M. Aileen Carroll
Minister of Culture
5th Floor, Mowat Block
900 Bay Street
Toronto, ON M7A 1L2

Dear Minister [ADDED IN HANDWRITING: "Aileen"],

RE: David Dunlap Observatory and Park, 123 Hillsview Drive (Part Lots 41, 42 & 43, Concession 1, Markham Township), Town of Richmond Hill

The Board of Directors of the Ontario Heritage Trust, at a recent meeting, gave consideration to issues concerning the conservation of the David Dunlap Observatory and Park in Richmond Hill. The Board has asked that I write to you on this matter, under its responsibility under Section 7(a) of the Ontario Heritage Act, namely "to advise and make recommendations to the Minister on any matter relating to the conservation, protection and preservation of the heritage of Ontario".

Without question, this site is a property of cultural heritage value or interest of provincial significance. The Board of Directors of the Ontario Heritage Trust recommends that you take immediate action to intervene to ensure the long-term conservation of the many heritage features and values of the property.

The David Dunlap Observatory and Park site holds a remarkable place in the history and heritage of this Province. A preliminary review of the site's significance, conducted by the Trust, has identified an exceptional range of heritage values and heritage significance: architectural, archaeological, cultural, historical, landscape, natural and scientific. The Observatory is directly associated with Canada's international accomplishments in the field of astronomy.

The David Dunlap Observatory is a 72 hectare/177-acre park-like parcel of land located at 123 Hillsview Drive in the Town of Richmond Hill, surrounded by suburban development. The property contains a number of architecturally significant structures including the 61-foot Observatory Dome (1935), the Beaux-Arts Administrative Building (1935) and a residence, Elms Lea (ca. 1864).

There are two time periods represented at the David Dunlap Observatory property; the first is the mid 19th century farmstead of early settler Alexander Marsh, exemplified in the dichromatic brick farmhouse Elms Lea (ca. 1864). The second is the David Dunlap Observatory, which has significant ties to Canada's international involvement in the study of astronomy and is home to Canada's largest telescope. The rotating copper Observatory Dome which houses the 74 inch telescope was the scene of many internationally significant discoveries in the field of astronomy including C.T Bolton's confirmation of the existence of black holes and Helen Hogg's work on variable stars. The Administration Building was designed by Mathers and Haldenby and is a fine example of Beaux-Arts classicism.

David Dunlap Observatory lands, located on the Oak Ridges Moraine and within the German Mills sub-watershed of the Don River Watershed, are the last significant greenspace in the south section of Richmond Hill. The David Dunlap Park includes greenspace which contains open fields, mature plantings, and wildlife.

By its land use history, location and the proximity to the Don River this 71-hectare property also possesses a high archaeological potential - not only for historical remains dating back to the early settlement of Richmond Hill but also prehistoric occupations that may date back thousands of years.

We recognize that the municipality has stated its intention to designate part of the property and that the designation is currently under review by the Conservation Review Board (CRB). No matter the outcome of the CRB's deliberations and its advice back to Council on this matter, we are of the opinion that in relation to this site the Province should demonstrate proactively its leadership in the conservation of Ontario's heritage for the benefit of the people of Ontario. This is not simply a local issue.

Over the next few years as the new owner proceeds to develop its plans, the municipality will be consistently put in the position of weighing heritage issues against development pressures. We have been made aware that the current owner is already undertaking inappropriate alterations to the building and property that could undermine the significance of the site. While the municipality must deal with a range of issues and balance community and development pressures, it is critical to have a third party with responsibility for approvals on heritage conservation matters. This internationally significant site deserves that extra care and attention.

It is the opinion of this Board that the Province should demonstrate leadership in the conservation of this site.

There are several options available:

- the immediate protection of the entire site through designation by you as Minister, under Section 34.5 of the Ontario Heritage Act;

- the issuance of a stop order, to allow time for discussions of conservation options and ensure that the site is not altered in the meantime;

- engagement of a Provincial facilitator to work with the owner, the Ministry, the Trust, the municipality and other stakeholders to identify the best conservation solutions for the property.

I would be pleased to discuss this matter with you further. As always, we stand ready to assist.


The Honourable Lincoln M. Alexander

Copy: Marg Rappolt, Deputy Minister

(C) The following e-mail was sent by Toomas Karmo to the Honourable Aileen Carroll, the Ontario Minister of Culture, in the late evening of 2009 May 13. Toomas Karmo received no reply in the 2009 summer. Around August of 2009, Toomas Karmo raised his failure to receive a reply with the office of the provincial Ombudsperson, by leaving a voicemail, but did not receive a reply from that office. Toomas Karmo next acted on the case by conferring with member "ABC" of the Ministry of Culture on 2009 November 18. Around UTC=20091119T2100Z, ABC phoned Toomas Karmo with the news that a search of Ministry records failed to show receipt of the mail. Toomas Karmo found this surprising, since he had at the time of transmission, in 2009 May, checked the recipient address carefully (noting to himself at the time that the mail was important), and since, additionally, ABC on 2008 November 18 or 2008 November 19 confirmed for him the correctness of the address he had used in 2009 May. However, Toomas Karmo agreed with ABC that he would retransmit, and ABC thereupon said that ABC and the Ministry team would see to it that Toomas Karmo received a reply. Toomas Karmo indicated that he would for his part display the reply on his Web site unless instructed otherwise by the Ministry. These 2009 November 18 and 2009 November 19 conversations with ABC regarding the e-mail failure of 2009 May were amicable and helpful:

Date: Wed, 13 May 2009 20:51:32 -0400
Subject: Minister: I've respectfully published on Web FOI-procured
        2008-09-22 Lincoln Alexander crrspndnce
User-Agent: Internet Messaging Program (IMP) 4.3.3

Universal Coordinated Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20090514T0004400Z


The Honourable M. Aileen Carroll
Minister of Culture
5th Floor, Mowat Block
900 Bay Street
Toronto, ON M7A 1L2

transmitted by e-mail, to


Toomas (Tom) Karmo
42 Gentry Crescent
Richmond Hill, ON L4C 2G9
part-time telescope operator
David Dunlap Observatory, 2006-11-16/2008-07-02
(with also other DDO duties, paid and unpaid,
in this same period)
(relevant professional qualification:
B.Sc. (Hons.) computing-and-physics,
University of Toronto 1996, with
full suite of University of Toronto
AST2xx and AST 3xx and AST 4xx
astrophysics courses taken subsequently;
doctoral qualification, D.Phil. Oxford 1979,
is not in astrophysics, and is therefore
largely irrelevant to this correspondence)

BCC OR SUBSEQUENT CC:  persons in DDO conservation movement,
                       and possible relevant other persons

RE: attn Minister: DDO&P conservation and lttr (FOI)
    OHT-to-Minister 2008-09-22

Dear Minister:

1. Background

I am writing to you about the
David Dunlap Observatory and Park
("DDO&P") conservation file,
with particular reference to a letter of 2008-09-22
sent to you from the Ontario Heritage Trust
under the signature of our former L-G,
the Hon. Lincoln M. Alexander.

You may recall the strength of the demonstrated
popular sentiment regarding DDO&P even as early
as 2008 January. At that early point in the case,
the Legislative Assembly already received a stack
of petitions, comprising several thousand signatures,
through the Hon. Reza Moridi and already witnessed a large
and orderly demonstration on our Assembly lawns
through the courtesy of our Sergeant-at-Arms.
There has of course been much subsequent advocacy
for DDO&P conservation, as you will have noted
from the press and from YouTube.

You may additionally recall that although (a) light
pollution makes extragalactic astronomy, apart
from observation of very bright extragalactic
objects such as active galactic nuclei, impossible
at DDO, nevertheless (b) DDO is one
of the best 30, or even the best 20,
facilities around the world for nuts-and-bolts 
optical-regime intragalactic stellar spectroscopy.
Your staff may have noted that the current cessation of
operations at DDO leaves the world with no
strong (2-metre-class) northern-hemisphere nuts-and-bolts
optical-regime intragalactic stellar spectroscopy
facility between the Canary Islands (off Spain)
and the far west of Texas.

Finally, you may recall an account of recent DDO
research achievements in my 2008 posting to the
Web site of the UK-based journal of scientific record, _Nature_:


        The various groupings of people using
        DDO have in the past 12 months included
        observers whose home institutions
        are in Poland, Slovakia, Estonia, and
        Turkey. Just before Christmas, there
        was in addition a minor NASA-supported
        visit from a young researcher with home
        institution in the USA. Since 2001,
        DDO data has flowed directly to NASA
        (Kepler mission) and to a NASA-funded
        project(Gray's "NStars", Appalachian
        State Univ). In the same period,
        DDO data has also flowed to projects
        in which other data inputs come from 
        NASA space-based observations. Some
        details regarding observers and
        observing programmes can be had from
        by following links to the archived
        monthly schedules. DDO is currently a
        centre for contact binaries, as can be
        seen by examining the series of papers
        from Rucinski et al in AJ. That series
        now comprises 12 papers. A thirteenth
        is in advanced stages of preparation. A
        fourteenth is anticipated some months
        from now. The "two members of faculty" 
        referred to in the_Nature_ writeup
        on which I am herewith commenting
        are surely Bolton (appointed in
        1970) and Rucinski (appointed in
        his current capacity in 1999). The
        contact-binaries work also currently
        involves CSA-funded UofT postdoc
        Pribulla (whose current appointment is
        from 2007). The NStars project, running
        from around 2001 to around 2004,
        involved faculty member (now Emeritus)
        Garrison. As I know from helping to
        operate the equipment, the DDO 1.88
        m can straightforwardly reach mag 13,
        even given the local light pollution. I
        gather from local lore that mag 15
        is achievable with some effort. A  
        little surprisingly, specialized
        extragalactic work, on AGNs, has
        been done in recent years, by a team
        under de Robertis (York University,
        Toronto). Details on instrumental 
        capabilities can be had from 
        Google searching along the normal
        lines reveals some details of the
        current conservation efforts. One can,
        alternatively, get a sense of the
        evolving story by following links from

Posted by: Toomas Karmo | 28 Mar, 2008


(The ongoing series of "12 papers" referred to in my _Nature_
Web posting is now complete, comprising 15 papers. "AJ"  
here denotes the _Astronomical Journal_, one of the
approximately seven journals in the first echelon
of astrophysical publishing. No journal in
the international family of astrophysics journals
carries markedly greater scientific weight than AJ,
though around six others should be ranked
equally with AJ.)

I privately believe that we, the DDO&P conservationists,
face a 15-year battle, culminating in eventual
achievement of UNESCO World Heritage List status
under the full panoply of available provincial
protections. I am indeed greatly encouraged, as I
investigate UNESCO possibilities, by my 2009 January
visits with key persons at the Joggins Fossil Cliffs
in Cumberland County, Nova Scotia. You will recall
that Joggins achieved UNESCO listing in 2008 July,
after efforts, vigorously supported
by the Nova Scotia government, that
consumed on the order of 15 years.
I would privately envisage our DDO&P conservation
work as culminating in the following set of outcomes:
*a____Full preservation of the DDO&P site,  
      including its entire 77-hectare dark-sky
      preserve of illumination-engineered lawns,
      of unilluminated fields, of unilluminated
      savannah, and of unilluminated wet
      and dry woodlands (the "P", or "Park",
      in "DDO&P").
*b____Operation of DDO under some appropriate
      consortium of Ontario universties, with
      the research revived at a level appropriate
      to DDO's internation standing, and with
      public outreach revived with participation
      of our existing DDO-interested 
      citizen-science associations.
*c____Daytime operation of the DDO&P dark-sky preserve
      as an internationally noted ecological
      study area in urban forest
      with public access for trail-regulated
      hiking and trail-regulated cross-country skiing,
      and with all the interpretive facilities normal
      in a world-class historical park. 
The Conservation Review Board (CRB) decision on DDO&P is now

I was privately interested to find, during the CRB hearings,
Mr Sean Fraser of the Ontario Heritage Trust
referring (on the morning of 2009 January 22) 
to the Ontario Heritage Act (OHA) relevance of the
conservation of a clear firing-range preserve,
technically a "glacis", around a fortification. To my
mind, such conservation parallels the
conservation of the DDO&P dark-sky preserve. To my own
mind, the DDO&P dark-sky preserve is as integral to
the DDO "function" as, for example,
the vast, unbuilt, unencumbered
Halifax Citadel glacis expanse is to the "function"
of that correctly conserved fortification. 
"Function" here is a technical notion from the OHA,
being the third element in the formal OHA
explanation of "cultural heritage landscape".
The conservation of DDO will surely be recorded by
future Ontario historians as a defining
aspect of your tenure as Minister. 

2. Specific News in This Communication
I am myself trying to facilitate the eventual work
of historians by writing a book on DDO
conservation. A nucleus or embryo of this book, comprising
around 15,000 words, has been available to the public
free of charge since the autumn of 2007
on my Web space, My Web server
logs, which I inspect at least monthly,
continually indicate a significant number of readers.    
As we move toward a CRB decision, I must, to the extent that time
allows, try to update and expand my book embryo, with
a view to the needs not only 
of my current persistent stream of Web visitors  
but also of eventual Ontario historians.
I have accordingly in the last few das added to the book-embryo
Appendix of "Selected Documentation" a
2008 September 22 letter to you from the Ontario Heritage
Trust, obtained in the 2008-2009 winter by one of my
friends, working through the Freedom of Information Act.
I am proposing to add my present e-mail to you to that
same Appendix, perhaps tomorrow or a little later this week.

Unless you advise otherwise, I will assume
that it is proper of me to continue bringing this
item from your 2008 September correspondence stream
to the attention of my readers in my Appendix.
I will be happy to publish in that same Appendix
any followup which your staff may wish to send me
as work on our DDO&P conservation file continues.
Perhaps you could have your staff acknowledge receipt
of this e-mail over the next day or two, as you prepare
to formulate your detailed reply at little later?

thanking you in advance for your attention
to this correspondence, 

Toomas (Tom) Karmo